Elected in 1979
“For contributions in research and education leading to the development of improved supersonic aircraft.”
BY ARNOLD MIGUS
PAUL GERMAIN, a French scientist of great reputation in the field of mechanics, died on February 26, 2009, at the age of 88. A leader in the field of supersonic aerodynamics for many years, Paul Germain also wrote textbooks and taught continuum mechanics, greatly influencing engineering education in France and abroad.
Paul Germain was born in Saint-Malo, France, on August 28, 1920. His father, who was a soldier during World War I, suffered from the effects of having been gassed, and died when Paul was only 9 years old. Following this premature departure of his father, Paul Germain, the eldest of three children, developed the sense of responsibilities and commitment that characterized him all his life, in an atmosphere of big family solidarity.
Trained as a mathematician at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, he quickly became interested in fluid mechanics. In 1948 he attended the International Congress of Mechanics in London, where, thanks to Sydney Goldstein, he had the opportunity to meet a large number of talented colleagues and was invited to spend some time in the Department of Applied Mathematics of the University of Manchester, headed in 1949 by Goldstein and in 1951 by his long-lasting friend James Lighthill. His thesis on the subject of conical supersonic flows was published by ONERA (The French Aerospace Lab),